April 26, 2000
Fur Fights Back A colony of raccoons, brought to Germany from North America 60 years ago, escaped from the Wolfshagen Fur Farm when it was bombed by the Allies in 1945. With no natural enemies, the raccoon population has increased to more than 100,000, raising fears among residents, especially farmers, who complained recently that the animals raid hen houses and gnaw through electricity cables.Trouble Mounts Denver's year-old airport, which opened 16 months late and $3.2 billion over budget and was plagued by a baggage system that chewed up luggage, was accidentally omitted from this year telephone directory. U.S. West Direct Inc. explained that it dropped the new airport from the White Pages when it deleted the numbers for the now-closed Stapleton International Airport.Fruits of Research Danish biologists discovered a new kind of life so different from all other known life forms that they had to go beyond a mere new species to create a new phylum, the first such addition in 13 years. The 0.01-inch-long animal, dubbed Symbion Pandora, attaches itself to the mouth hairs of the Norwegian lobster. It reproduces sexually and asexually. It is born with a brain, but the brain disappears during adolescence and reappears at the onset of adulthood.French and American scientists studying organisms that manage to live near hot springs rising from a trough in the Pacific Ocean pulled up giant worms measuring more than 6 feet in length from a depth of 8,000 feet.German scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Switzerland announced they had created the first atoms of antimatter. When antimatter meets matter, the substance that all things on earth are made of, the two substances instantly annihilate each other. The anti-atoms survived for just 40 billionths of a second, but the scientists said they are working to extend the time.Shortcomings of Democracy Tennessee state senators this session passed a measure urging home, businesses and schools in the state to post the Ten Commandments. "I think it's time to get back to the basics of morality in this country, which has traditionally been based in Judeo-Christian beliefs," said Ben Atchlet, R-Knoxville, sponsor of the bill, which passed, 27-1. Some of the lawmakers who voted for the bill said they couldn't afford to vote no. "I don't have time to explain to my 150,000 constituents about how this is America and this was about choice," declared Memphis Democrat Roscoe Dixon. "All they'll see is whether I voted for it or against it."Losing Attitude Norway's Justice for Losers Association, formed in 1993, saw its profile rise when King Harald met with its founder, Ola Odegaard. Oslo's Dagbladet newspaper reported that 9,115 losers have registered with the organization, which receives about $40,000 a year in government support.Opportunity Splashes During Vice President Al Gore's visit to Denver in March, Hamlet "Chips" Barry III, chief of the city's Water Department, decided the South Platte River looked too shallow to serve as a backdrop for Gore's river-front photo opportunity. He decided to boost the flow by releasing 96 million gallons of water, which the Rocky Mountain News reported is worth $59,000 and could have supplied nearly 300 families for a year. "I can defend it," Barry said. "When you have the river being showcased, you want it to look good."Warts and All Toads overran three villages in central Bolivia during the last 10 days of February, causing widespread panic. Officials blamed a drought for forcing the toads from their usual habitats in search of water, but farmers reportedly took the invasion as a sign of impending doom. Children were described as terrified and unable to sleep. Radio dispatches said the main road connecting the region with La Paz was coated with a thick layer of dead toads, whose stench was unbearable.Suspicions Confirmed As men age, their brains shrink three times faster than women's, according to researcher Ruben Gur. The University of Pennsylvania psychology professor declared that the brain-tissue loss reduces men's memory, concentration and reasoning ability, adding it may also make older men grumpier.Since the use of computers has become widespread in the United States, the rate of productivity growth has mysteriously plummeted, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported experts' opinions that computers may actually be costing companies tens of billions of dollars a year. A 1992 study by SBT Accounting Systems of Sausalito, Calif., estimated that PC users waste 5 billion hours a year, worth $100 billion to the U.S. economy, waiting for programs to run, calling technical support, checking computer output for accuracy and proper formatting, helping co-workers use their applications and organizing cluttered disk storage. The Gartner Group Inc., a research firm in Stamford, Conn., estimated that businesses lose 26 million hours of employee time each year to on-the-job game playing. Peter Sassone, an economist at Georgia Tech University, found that large companies frequently use computers to shift the burden of petty tasks from cheap clerical help to highly paid executives. As a result, managers spend less time doing managerial work, causing a staggering loss of productivity. In addition, because computers depreciate incredibly fast as new models render old ones obsolete, companies are constantly buying new, more powerful machines and software.Optional Equipment Redondo Beach, Calif., police officer Joseph Fonteno stopped a car after observing it heading along the Pacific Coast Highway with half of a traffic-light pole on its hood and the signal lights still attached. Fonteno said that when he asked about the pole, the driver replied, "It came with the car when I bought it."Naughty or Nice Austrian parents last Christmas used a hotline to report their children's misdeeds during the previous year. At a prearranged time, Krampus, a troll-like figure with a stick and chains, appeared at the children's homes to confront them about their behavior. Despite criticism that the frightening Krampus figure is violent and may traumatize children, the European reported the hotline was booming.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).